As an unadulterated born and bred “Freetong Boy” I can say it without any apology, whatsoever, that one of the most lawless and uncivilized slums in the country, and may be in the entire Africa, is the capital of Sierra Leone: Freetown.
When President Ernest Bai Koroma declared the Public State of Emergency few months ago, some districts such as Kailahun, Kenema, Pujehun and Bonthe duly observed, and are still observing, it to the latter. And today, these are the only places in the country that have been continually recording zero cases of Ebola infection while Freetown, as a whole, is not only a hotspot but a sort of warfront. As of yesterday (Thursday 18 December 2014) while writing this One Dropian dropping, Freetown alone had 21 Ebola hotspots with 30% of corpses taken from homes highly Ebola-nized!
This is simply because most inhabitants of, and in, Freetown have been making every effort in the sun to be law unto themselves which is being oxygenized by the lethargy of some government’s institutions to implement the Public State of Emergency with all the constitutional force it has. Before the President declared “Operation Western Area Surge”, which started on Wednesday 17 December 2014, many people in Freetown were behaving as if nothing catastrophic was happening in the country.
Even though it was and still is outlawed, by the Public State of Emergency, for people not to gather in public places after 7:00PM; Freetown was, and still is, the only part of and in the country (probably Makeni and Port Loko Districts might be neck-to-neck for the second place) where nocturnal activities around restaurants, nightclubs and the beach areas were and are still taking place as business as usual. For many “Freetong people”, Ebola is a Hollywood creation not something in their midst.
But if Freetown is lawless it might be because those who are supposed to enforce the Public State of Emergency are themselves complicit in the recklessness and lawlessness. Or because they are busy scheming on how to siphon Ebola funds for their personal benefits (Thank God President Koroma has put a curse on all those who are siphoning Ebola funds) and treating the Public State of Emergency like a comic show.
The statistics of those who have died of and infected with the Ebola virus in Freetown are as frightening as they are pointers to the recklessness and lawlessness that have permeated the aura in Freetown. For it will, and can, be more profitable to the nation as a whole if Sierra Leoneans forgo some of their “flamboyant and joyous manner, [and] be reminded that our country is at war with a vicious enemy that is still taking the lives of our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, children and friends” (to quote President Ernest Bai Koroma’s latest address to the nation). It will not make any difference if alcoholics and nightclub-goers soft-peddle on their habits for awhile while the nation wrestles with how to put the final nail on Ebola’s coffin.
There has been, and will always be, a time for every season. If we, as a nation, do not celebrate this Christmas and New Year with pomp as we have been used to do because of the Ebola epidemic; let’s be reminded that there are many more Christmases and New Years to come. If sacrificing this year’s for the sake of annihilating the Ebola epidemic; so be it for we “cannot do more than the ordinary” (as my father used to say!) in the present circumstance.
I have repeatedly heard the ludicrous argument that the ban on public gathering has been affecting religious duties for both Muslims and Christians. You might pardon my unreligiosity here because, at present, I am not a practising Christian in the meaningful sense of a churchgoer. But, as I see it, the issue of religion is something of one’s personal relationship with the Almighty God. One could even pray under one’s bed or under one’s dining table (provided if you have one in your house!) and God could still answer that prayer if He wants to. So, it doesn’t mean that God would only answer prayers only when people congregate and noisily proclaim their faiths! For now, the Almighty God could understand if we do individual prayers in our homes until Sierra Leone epilogues the Ebola epidemic. That’s the subtle message President Koroma is sending.
Now trading from 6:00AM to 6:00PM on Mondays to Fridays and from 6:00AM to 12:00PM on Saturdays, coupled with the indefinite suspension of trading on Sundays, are just some of the inconveniences we will have to face, as a nation, because of the current Ebola plague plaguing the country.
In my opinion, President Ernest Bai Koroma is right on these latest desperate measures to lid Ebola back into the genie bottle. The only problem I think I have with those measures is the close of trading at 12:00PM on Saturdays. I think a realistic time should have been 3:00PM. Other than that, I will give “Seth” to the President’s copy (in journalese, please), sorry—to his address to the nation!
By Mohamed Sankoh (One Drop)